Adam Wylie is the Head of Sports Science at Athletes Authority. He has a passion for bridging the gap between the raw data recorded and the athlete in the gym; he does this by providing clarity and educating each athlete along their own athletic journey to becoming a pro. He leads the data collection at Athletes Authority, where he is responsible for testing and analysis for each athlete that enters the facility.
Adam has a wealth of experience across a multitude of sports, with exposure to everything from track and field to Rugby League to rowing. Beyond his work at Athletes Authority, Adam is a sports science consultant, providing his expertise to coaches, clubs, and organizations by utilizing his ability to convey and conduct digestible messages depending on the target demographic.
Freelap USA: As someone who works with force plates regularly, what tests do you find are the most important for an athletic population, and why?
Adam Wylie: I definitely think it depends on the target outcome, as force plates now are so versatile with the ability to separate and compare limbs/sides, or even just the flexibility to take them on the road with you and set them up wherever there is a hard, stable surface. They’re completely different from the ones I was first shown in university, which were just big single plates that took forever to calibrate and were reserved for those at the sporting pinnacle or for research.
Coming back to the most important test, context is key—for our rehabbers, things like an ASH Test, countermovement push-up, or calf raise iso could be the most beneficial. But if we are talking purely athlete development that gets our coaches on the floor the most bang for their buck, you can’t go past the classics—IMTP, squat jump, and countermovement jump, as well as some sort of RSI measurement through a 10-5 hop test or drop jump. From those, we’re joining the dots using the dynamic strength index, eccentric utilization ratio, and RSI, as mentioned.
With those 10 minutes of testing, we’ve now got the basics covered to see what our athletes’ strengths and weaknesses are from a strength-power profiling standpoint and begin to have a conversation about how we can aid and assist their training to help their “game.”
Freelap USA: There are dozens of metrics you can pull for each test, so are there specific metrics you look at during these tests (perhaps some that S&C coaches aren’t looking at)? Or do you find that the more basic metrics are useful enough?
Adam Wylie: It’s very much a case-by-case basis. I primarily look at my target audience with what metrics are produced. For me, context is king, and my presentation of results varies because of that.I primarily look at my target audience for the metrics produced. Context is king, and my presentation of results varies because of that. Are they for athletes, our coaches, or external coaches? Click To Tweet
For my athletes, I keep metrics simple—if I can provide them with something tangible in their testing execution, like jump height over, say, impulse. With the athletes we have on deck, too, they see their professional counterparts do a draft combine, and they want to compare to that. At the end of the day, for them, that’s the benchmark, more so than the nuts and bolts that underpin how to get there.
For the coaches that we have onboard, there’s a two-part approach:
- They get the same results their athletes do. They’re the ones on the comms to the athletes each day, so the message is consistent from the coach and from my report to the athlete.
- Part two of that is whether or not I have a coach who wants to dive deep into a few additional metrics. Usually, there’s a deeper level of investigation, again from the physio department being able to dive into asymmetries.
The last piece is liaising with external coaches—we have a few athletes roll in from their professional environment, and a lot of the time, they’ll provide a summary from their club/organization. With that, they may have a focus on particular metrics, so making sure that when we report back to them, we have those markers checked off, as well as adding the flair that makes us who we are when reporting on trends in athletic performance.
Freelap USA: The testing battery at Athletes Authority is broken down into examining broad categories like movement competency, multi-vector power, strength, and aerobic fitness. What would be your go-to tests for coaches on a budget if you had to perform a robust testing session with an athlete who still checked all those boxes?
Adam Wylie: We definitely have the luxury of providing tests and services to our athletes in line with the pinnacle of sporting organizations, all from the private sector. But when you strip away all that we test, it’s the athletic qualities that have been tested for the longest time. So all of these flood to mind immediately for strength and power—basics like your 1- or 3-rep max tests, broad jump, lateral bound, triple hop, and pull-ups for reps.
The invention of the mobile phone camera and apps are game-changers—record jump heights or monitor general movement quality progressions over time for a youth athlete.When you strip away all that we test (no matter what methods we use), it’s the athletic qualities that have been tested for the longest time, says @WSP_PERFORMANCE. Click To Tweet
Then, from a speed and conditioning standpoint, for sprint efforts, grab a couple of stopwatches and take an average for time. Do the same for a 5-0-5, and there’s your speed and change of direction covered. Run a 2km TT for MAS and aerobic qualities.
It becomes a pretty extensive testing battery for your athletes pretty quickly. It can provide a nice baseline on where an athlete would sit with their key movement patterns, plyometric capabilities, speed, and change of direction, as well as aerobic capacity.
Freelap USA: Part of your role at Athletes Authority is helping coaches design databases and reporting templates. Working with Excel can be a daunting task for some coaches. What basic Excel functions or concepts do you think are critical for coaches or sports scientists to master so they can develop functioning databases or improve their data visualization for reporting purposes?
Adam Wylie: For myself, when I create a new database and report, I typically break my process into a few parts: database creation, dashboard/report scaffolding, and lastly, visualizing and functionality.
Initially, the setup portion of creating a new report and database is making tables, tabs, etc., that are succinct in the data they hold. There’s nothing worse than having to make sense of a .csv export with every metric under the sun reported—immediately, that’s overwhelming and becomes a daunting task. So, before any functions, knowing what they want recorded is key.
Once data is collated and stored in a way that makes sense and can be easily referenced in future functions, the scaffolding takes place. Outside of learning things like dynamic named ranges, the transfer of a report’s idea onto a blank canvas can potentially be the biggest roadblock to going any further. Whether you’re scrapping it on paper or merging and highlighting cells for certain sections can aid in those early days of planning and preparing a report or dashboard.
From there, you have a database, a vision for the report, and now functionality and visuals. I think, for a starting point, some sort of data validation to create dropdown lists for things like players, positions, or teams—as well as a base understanding of formulas like a VLOOKUP or XLOOKUP or SUM or AVERAGEIFS—can go a long way in answering most questions. Then visuals: start simple. Comparison graphs can still be as powerful in a base column or line; not everything needs to be a scatter or radar from day one. That level of detail in a visual can come later.When developing databases and reporting templates, I suggest keep playing and building on concepts and ideas. There’s a plethora of resources out there, says @WSP_PERFORMANCE. Click To Tweet
Just like writing programs and selecting exercises that best suit an athlete or client are part of a skill set that takes time to develop, the early days when you reflect on what you made won’t be your best work. But the worst thing that can happen is giving up on day one or when your number changes to a date. All I can suggest is to keep playing and building on concepts and ideas. There’s a plethora of resources out there, from sports science specifics to just general formulas and functions.
Freelap USA: Ideally, the information gathered during performance testing is used to inform programming decisions for the athlete. How do you go about working with S&C coaches to apply the data and decide which areas need to be focused on in training?
Adam Wylie: Well, in my current environment at Athletes Authority, the S&C coaches are ingrained with the importance of making informed decisions around testing. When a new coach is onboarded (or even those coming through our internship program), they are shown the extensive systems put in place to understand the importance of our performance testing to make the best possible decisions regarding our athletes’ development.
The tests we perform serve one of two purposes: either for a pure performance outcome or a marker for returning from any potential injury that might occur. For example, our Hop & Stick rarely, if ever, affects a day-one program, but it is a great marker for us to have in our back pocket should we have an athlete with a lower limb injury. In that case, we now have a return-to-performance marker.
As mentioned, we have extensive systems in place for our testing and programming, and this is all because we back our ability to make tangible changes to an athlete’s athletic qualities. So, based on this, I provide summary sheets to each coach highlighting the changes to their athlete’s testing results. This allows us the freedom to have open conversations in our professional development on ways that our coaches can look to influence certain qualities even further. It’s great to hear when an athlete says they felt stronger, faster, or more resilient in their sport but also having that quantitative aspect helps give our athletes another layer of trust and buy-in that we are moving the needle in the right direction.
Since you’re here…
…we have a small favor to ask. More people are reading SimpliFaster than ever, and each week we bring you compelling content from coaches, sport scientists, and physiotherapists who are devoted to building better athletes. Please take a moment to share the articles on social media, engage the authors with questions and comments below, and link to articles when appropriate if you have a blog or participate on forums of related topics. — SF